Feel like you need to make some changes to the way the family eats? Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, help is at hand, as we have put together 20 Easy Tips To Encourage Healthy Eating for your family:
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The best advice when it comes to healthy eating is to start with small changes – you don’t want to overwhelm yourself (or your family) with lots of changes at once.
Tips to Encourage Healthy Eating
#1. Start with Small Changes
You can’t change habits overnight but you can start to make small changes one at a time. This is the best approach anyway as you won’t feel overwhelmed but you will feel in control as you start to change things slowly.
#2. Aim for More Fibre
Introduce more fibre to the family diet. Here are some ways to introduce more fibre to what you and the kids eat:
- Swap in whole grain cereal or brown bread instead of white for breakfast.
- Try baking with different flours that have more fibre, eg wholemeal, spelt.
- Add some cooked beans to your pasta sauce, e.g. butter beans, kidney, white, black, pinto, lima.
#3. Serve Smaller Portions
Portion size is a real problem sometimes and people tend to try to eat what’s on their plate. So try a smaller plate size or smaller portion size. Get familiar with what a reasonable portion size is for children and adults.
#4. Don’t Get Caught in the Clean Plate Trap
It’s ok not to finish your meal if you are full. We are from the generation whose parents encouraged us to clean our plates which might mean you are overeating (if you haven’t checked portion sizes). So Dad, as fun as the Clean Plate Club was, I’m going to give that a miss now.
#5. Don’t Skip Breakfast
You might also enjoy reading 10 Easy Steps to Improve Family Nutrition
#6. Eat a Rainbow
There’s a useful Fact Sheet about Fruit & Veg on the Nutrition Australia website which has a chart of the different fruit and veg by colour and suggestions and tips.
- Make a rainbow fruit salad with fruits of each colour: strawberry, orange, mango, melon, kiwi, banana, and blueberries.
- Stir fry a mix of veg of each colour: red onions, carrots, baby corn, broccoli and mushrooms.
May also like 8 Healthy Dessert Ideas We Promise Your Kids will Love
#7. Increase Whole Grains
Try to make at least half the grains in your diet whole grains, they are good sources of complex carbohydrates and some key vitamins and minerals.
- Start cooking whole grain pasta or rice, you could always do a half and half with white pasta or rice as you get used to the whole grain version.
- Use grains as side dishes to boost fibre, e.g. wholemeal couscous with burgers or wholemeal bread with soups or stews.
- Use wild rice or barley in soups, stews, casseroles and salads.
- Use crushed whole-wheat bran cereal or rolled oats in recipes instead of dry bread crumbs.
More tips on introducing whole grains to your diet.
May also like Quick & Healthy Breakfast Ideas That Aren’t Porridge
#8. Eat Fish at Least Once a Week
Fish is a really nutritious food, rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, all essential to maintaining good health. Our diets in the West tend to be low on omega-3 fatty acids as well, those are good for healthy brain, eye and nerve development in babies and children, and are good for heart health.
Aim for a portion of oily fish once a week, eg Salmon, Mackerel as well as the omega-3, they are a rich source of vitamins A, D and E.
Fussy Eater in the house? Check out our Top Tips for Fussy Eaters & 8 Proven Family Dinner Ideas Your Picky Eater will Love
#9. Try to Reduce Sugar Intake
Do you know how much sugar you are really consuming? Here are 4 good reasons to reduce sugar:
- Sugar adds empty calories to food.
- Added sugar increases cholesterol.
- Reducing sugar can lower blood pressure.
- Sugar increases fat storage.
And some tips:
- Drink flavoured waters instead of soda pop
- Try a square or two of dark chocolate instead of a biscuit or cookie
- Try apple slices with a spoonful of peanut butter if you feel the need for something sweet
#10. Shoot for Super Foods
When it comes to healthy eating, superfoods are low on calories, high on nutrients, and are good sources of antioxidants. According to WebMD, these are the Super Foods everyone should eat:
- Tea (green or black)
You might also enjoy 15 Everyday Superfoods with Major Health Benefits
#11. Try Some Substitutes
- Greek yoghurt instead of cream for extra protein
- Balsamic vinegar and olive oil instead of bought salad dressings
- A handful of almonds instead of crisps for a snack
- Baked food instead of fried
#12. Cut Down on Salt
Many people eat more than twice the amount of salt their bodies need. Research shows that if you eat too much salt in your diet, this can increase blood pressure levels and in turn increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
School children should eat less than 4 grams per day and younger children should eat only the minimum amount of salt.
Make sure you check food labels to see how much sodium is in any bought foods. You might find our article by Nutritionist Bridget Wing useful on how to read food labels.
The Irish Heart Foundation also explains all about salt and how to cut down.
#13. Sneak in the Veg
Sneak in the veg into family recipes to up the vegetable intake. For example, add spinach to your mix for tacos or to your pasta sauce.
I always chop up some spinach very small and add it to my tuna mayo mix as a way of increasing veggie intake.
Toddler in the house? check out our Healthy Food Ideas for 1-5 Year Olds
#14. Cut Down On Saturated Fats
Saturated fat is the fat found in fatty cuts of meat, sausages and bacon, cheese, cream, butter and lard, pies, cakes and biscuits.
Most of us eat too much saturated fat, usually 20% more than the recommended maximum amount. The average man should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day while the average woman should eat no more than 20g of saturated fat a day.
Here are some tips:
- buy leaner mince for meals such as spaghetti bolognese;
- oven cook your chips instead of frying;
- trim the visible fat off meat;
- check nutrition labels to make sure the saturated fat is as low as it can be if buying products.
#15. Make Your Own Meals
Instead of ready made meals which can be high in salt and sugar, make your own. We have tons of recipes in our Family Food & Recipes section.
And here are 50 Ideas for Easy Family Dinners to help inspire you.
#16. Go Nuts
Nuts are rich in energy, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. Have them as snacks as an alternative to crisps or
- sprinkle chopped nuts over desserts and ice cream.
- add them to your baking eg to muffins, breads and cakes.
- spread peanut butter on apple slices for a nutritious snack.
#17. Go Bananas
Bananas are a good source of potassium, they help us keep our blood cholesterol levels in check, and they are high in fiber at about 3g per medium banana. Even though bananas are a fruit that tastes quite sweet when ripe, bananas have a low glycemic index (GI) value.
#18. Chew More
Ever heard the saying you should chew your food 32 times before swallowing? Well there may be some good reasons for it (even if 32 times is a bit excessive).
Chewing your food thoroughly helps you to absorb more nutrients from your food, makes for easier digestion and also reduces digestive issues like gas and bloating.
Chewing also helps you keep control of portion sizes and decreases the amount of calories you take in. This is because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to signal to your stomach that you’re full. So chewing more and eating more slowly can be better for you.
#19. Eat Together
According to research carried out at Rutgers, State University of New Jersey looking specifically at family meals, family mealtime has many health benefits, especially for children. Kids who ate more meals together with their families tended to eat more fruits, vegetables, fibre, calcium-rich foods, vitamins, and more importantly perhaps, ate less junk food.
There are also social benefits linked to how often families ate together:
- Teens who ate at the family table more often were more likely to show fewer signs of depression and feel that their family was more supportive, compared with teens who dined less often at home.
- Family bonds become stronger;
- Children are better adjusted;
- As well as eating more nutritional meals, family members are less likely to be overweight, and they are less likely to abuse alcohol or other drugs
#20. Go Meat Free at Least 1 Day a Week
There are a few good reasons for going meat free at least 1 day a week:
- you helping the planet by reducing the demand for meat which does have an environmental impact;
- you save money as generally meat free means lower cost meals
- going meatless once a week may reduce your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
You can get good tips and recipes on going meat free at www.meatfreemonday.com.
You might also enjoy 11 of the Best Vegetarian Recipes for a Meatless Monday